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Bundesliga

Cologne relegated, reprieve for Hertha Berlin

FC Cologne have finished second-to-last in the Bundesliga and will be relegated to the second division. Hertha Berlin beat Hoffenheim to leapfrog the Billy Goats; they still have to fight for their lives later.

Cologne and Hertha Berlin had dominated the headlines ahead of the final matchday, with the question of who would fill the second automatic relegation spot. Both had home advantage in their games, but Cologne could not use it - losing 4-1 to Bayern Munich.

The Cologne fans' best hope soon proved to be a Hoffenheim win or draw in Berlin, either of which would have sent Hertha down a division instead.

Berlin were somewhat fortunate against Hoffenheim, with their opener a curling Aenis Ben-Hatira free-kick that floated through the box untouched and landed in the Hoffenheim net. The visitors' star winger, Ryan Babel, was later sent off - rather innocuously - for a second bookable offense. Ben-Hatira added a second and wholly intentional goal on 78 minutes.

Hertha's coach and other staff celebrate the final whistle against Hoffenheim

Hertha Berlin are safe for now, but their battle has just begun

Hoffenheim's Marvin Compper pulled one back late on, and ex-Hertha coach Markus Babbel wasn't keen on doing his old club any favors. He sent goalie Thomas Kraft up for a pair of stoppage-time set pieces, seeking an equalizer.

But this gambit ultimately backfired. Brazilian Raffael broke away from the cleared corner, ran almost the length of the pitch and slotted the ball into an open net, making the final score 3-1.

Hertha will now face a two-legged relegation playoff encounter with the third-placed side in the German second division, whose identity will be revealed Sunday. Should Hertha lose, the Bundesliga would become European soccer's only top division without representation from the capital city.

Not with a bang but a whimper

Cologne were never going to have an easy time of things at home against Bayern Munich.

Munich's Thomas Mueller, center, celebrates his team's opening goal as Cologne's goal keeper Michael Rensing, right, looks on during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Cologne and Bayern Munich in Cologne, Saturday, May 5, 2012. (Foto:Michael Probst/AP/dapd) NO MOBILE USE UNTIL 2 HOURS AFTER THE MATCH, WEBSITE USERS ARE OBLIGED TO COMPLY WITH DFL-RESTRICTIONS, SEE INSTRUCTIONS FOR DETAILS

Cologne's defense spent key moments of the match in their trademark sedentary positions

Thomas Müller opened the scoring in the first half, connecting with a Franck Ribery cross. Shortly after the break, another cross from the French winger was diverted into the Cologne net by central defenders Geromel and Kevin McKenna.

Cologne then proceeded to demonstrate their characteristic house-of-cards impersonation, immediately conceding a third to Arjen Robben and putting the result beyond doubt. The sold-out Rhein-Arena stadium started emptying with over half an hour to play. Milivoje Novakovic's consolation goal and then Thomas Müller's impudent backheel had no bearing on the outcome.

Fans on the Rhine had hardly enjoyed a stellar week, with confirmation finally coming of former captain Lukas Podolski's long-rumored transfer to Arsenal. The German international could only provide fans with a meaningless assist in his last appearance - at least for now - in his home club's colors.

Hannover head back to Europe

Hannover and Wolfsburg were also playing for more than pride on the final Bundesliga matchday, competing for seventh position and the last Europa League qualification spot.

Hannover booked their return ticket to Europe with a 2-1 win over Kaiserslautern, whose relegation had been a certainty for some time. Didier Ya Konan scored one and forced the other own goal, a rare strong showing for Hannover's star of last season.

Nordrhein-Westfalen/ Fussball, 1. Bundesliga, Saison 2011/2012, 34. Spieltag, Borussia Dortmund - SC Freiburg, Samstag (0505.12), Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund: Dortmunds Spieler feiern mit der Meisterschale. Das Spiel endete 4:0. +++ Achtung Bildredaktionen: Die Verwendung der Bilder fuer die gedruckten Ausgaben der Zeitungen und andere Print-Medien ist ohne Einschraenkungen moeglich. Die DFL erlaubt ausserdem die Publikation und Weiterverwertung von maximal sechs Bildern pro Spiel im Internet. Eine Weiterverwertung im IPTV, Mobilfunk und durch sonstige neue Technologien ist erst 2 Stunden nach Spielende der jeweiligen Wettbewerbsspiele der Bundesliga und 2. Bundesliga erlaubt!
Foto: dapd

Dortmund's league season has been the best in Bundesliga history

Wolfsburg led 2-0 in the latter stages in Stuttgart, until coach Bruno Labbadia's side dramatically turned the tables - bagging three goals in the space of six minutes. Stuttgart, who finished sixth overall, were the third-strongest Bundesliga side in the back half of the league season, with a record bettered only by Dortmund and Bayern.

Dortmund celebrate in style

Dortmund treated their fans to a 4-0 home win to round out the best season in Bundesliga history. It was an all-Polish first-half rout for the back-to-back champs; winger Jakub Blaszczykowkski and club top-scorer Robert Lewandowski both bagged braces even before the half-time oranges were handed around. Visitors Freiburg barely featured in the game.

Dortmund are on a 28-game unbeaten run - after a poor start to the season - already an all-time Bundesliga record and one they might well build on in the next campaign.

The sellout crowd stormed the pitch to celebrate at Signal Iduna Park after the full-time whistle.

Dortmund's supporters have entered the pitch after the last German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and SC Freiburg

Dortmund draws the Bundesliga's biggest crowds, and they got to celebrate in style

Third-placed Schalke had rather little to play for, but top-scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was surely glad to see Mario Gomez fail to add to his Bayern Munich tally in Cologne. The Dutch forward grabbed two more goals - though the pick of the day went to German teenager Julian Draxler - as Schalke won a 3-2 thriller in Bremen. Huntelaar, with 29 Bundesliga goals this season, thus took the accolade as the league's top scorer.

Germany's final Champions League qualifier, the season's surprise package Borussia Mönchengladbach, also won their season finale - but the 3-0 triumph might have been a tad bitter. The side's superstar, Marco Reus, treated fans to two goals and an assist in his last game for Gladbach. Reus will move on to his childhood home of Dortmund next season to ply his trade for the Bundesliga champs.

In the final two fixtures on Saturday afternoon, Bayer Leverkusen overpowered hosts Nuremberg 4-1, while Augsburg won 1-0 at home against Hamburg. As expected, Augsburg's coach Jos Luhukay announced his resignation immediately after leading the minnows to safety against all the odds. Luhukay, who had another year remaining on his contract, reportedly felt he could no longer cooperate with club chairman Walter Seinsch.

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Nancy Isenson